Backups to fit your business

If you think backup is only an enterprise issue, think again. How much is your data worth? If you lost it, how long would it take to recreate it, and how many days could you afford to be without it?

A study published by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration found that 93

per cent of businesses that lost their data for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year. It’s an alarming statistic, and it’s supported by other studies.

Many unplanned business interruptions actually result from planned — though short, maintenance-related — downtime, rather than fallen telephone poles or ice storms. “”Most failures occur because Joe Brown makes a small change and the next thing you know he’s brought down four applications,”” says Michael Kerr, channel director for EMC Canada. “”So what was planned for 30 minutes becomes two days, and that affects your business.””

Can’t afford to spend $100,000 on storage? Fortunately, there are lower-cost, lower-capacity solutions on the market for smaller businesses. At the same time, some of the big guys’ products are being tailored to meet SMB needs. EMC, for example, has rolled out pre-configured storage bundles to help SMBs archive e-mail and consolidate storage, while Veritas (recently purchased by Symantec Corp.) has bundled storage backup and management for SMBs.

In a networked environment, storage tends to be more distributed (and subject to more regulations if it’s listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange). As a small business, you may simply need to back up your e-mail and business records. If you only have a couple of servers, removable technology is an option that allows you to back up your data and take it home with you at the end of the day or week so it’s located offsite. Removable technology performs like a hard drive, which means you’re not sitting around for four hours on Friday night waiting to back up your data, says Wayne Arvidson, director of professional storage at Iomega Corp.

CDs only hold 650MB. They’re slow and have a shelf life. Consider cartridges: It’s much easier to manage a single cartridge than 100 CDs.

If you have a lot of data, back up your system on a daily or weekly basis. To do this effectively, however, you must consolidate your storage — if you have 20 servers, you don’t want to back up 20 separate systems, just one.

If you have several servers on a network, network-attached storage (NAS) is probably your best bet. NAS is hard disk storage that has its own network address, removing access and management from the department server (meaning applications are not competing for the same processor resources).

Direct-attached storage (DAS) devices, on the other hand, are connected to the servers, so heavy access can slow down your network. And if you have several servers with direct-attached storage, typically a lot of that storage will not actually be accessible to the organization, says Wayne Hogan, acting chair of the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) in Canada. DAS works well in environments with individual or a small number of servers, but if there are dozens, the situation becomes complicated. The storage for each server has to be managed separately. It can’t be shared.

While NAS was formerly limited to enterprises with dedicated IT departments, it’s now scaled down in size for smaller businesses. “”If you can drive your Windows desktop, you can drive a NAS box these days,”” says Arvidson. NAS supports more users at a higher bandwidth, and you can set up user groups with different levels of access.

Consider an all-in-one-solution to save money and excessive calls to your VAR. Look for a NAS box that has built-in networking infrastructure so you don’t have to buy a router (this means you can plug your DSL line into the back of the box and everybody in your office can connect to it). Also, make sure it has print serving capabilities and a means to let you expand, such as USB ports.

Just make sure your data is easily accessible. If you have to search for days to find an archived e-mail or business presentation, you need to rethink your backup strategy. Finding the right fit for your business is essential for minimizing downtime in the event of a business interruption and can prevent you from becoming uncompetitive — or even going out of business.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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